Ask Jo: About the Bernina

After I told you about Kelli and I gifting the Singer Scholastic Sewing Machine to my great niece, I got lots of questions.

This one is from Sharon:  “Why don’t you like your Bernina? I too have a Pfaff and a Bernina. The Pfaff has a small throat but sews beautifully. The Bernina has a larger throat so is easier to use for free motion quilting larger items but some features are frustrating for me.”

My Bernina is a 165E.  I don’t like it.   I did at first as it is capable of embroidery and for a short time in my life, I liked that…Now…no.

Now it is pretty much a dust collector…well, I do use it to fill bobbins for the quilting machine but that’s about it.


So why don’t I like it….
The thing is loud and clunky.  I have taken it three separate times to a class or retreat.  Each and every time I have been told by someone that “your machine sure it loud”…or “are you sure you oiled’s loud”.  Yep.  I oiled in and yep it’s loud.

I was completely frustrated by thy supposed quarter inch foot that I paid big money to purchase.  It is the foot with the guide along the side.  I believed for a LONG time that it was 1/4″.  It wasn’t.  If I kept the fabric under the guide it was 1/4″…not inside the guide.  (I wrote a whole blog post about that.  Find it here)  Yes I know there’s another foot I can buy that doesn’t have the guide but why?   I don’t like the machine so why spend more money on it.

The other thing I just don’t like is that it is computerized.  Every time I start up or make an adjustment, I machine has to do it’s computer thing and there’s always a delayed action before I start sewing.  I don’t like it.

The machine doesn’t have power either.  Yes, it goes but there is always a computerized hesitation.  It is AWFUL for patching jeans.  The needle lifts and prances and then won’t go in…(and yes I have the proper needle)…

Simply put I think I just don’t like computerized machines.

I’ve thought about selling it but it’s basically obsolete.  The embroidery part takes a cartridge that is no longer the mode of having designs to embroider.  That is all frustrating too.  I bought it too early before the technology and ability to program with the computer was so easy as it is now.  I can still do a few embroidery things so I continue to keep the machine…just in case.  Since purchasing the machine I’ve learned that embroidery is a HUGE money pit too…there is always something that needs a credit card swiped to purchase.  I never had everything that I “needed”.

I know I’ll never use the machine much-Kelli doesn’t like it either.

We’ll keep our eyes open.  What we REALLY-REALLY-REALLY want is a Pfaff Grand Quilter just like my normal piecing machine…If you ever see one, let us know. the Bernina saga….As I was writing this I got a message from Kelli saying-Vintage Sewing Machine at Goodwill and it’s $1 day.  I’m buying it for $1.  I’ll keep you posted….

18 thoughts on “Ask Jo: About the Bernina”

  1. I have a computerized Viking and feel the same way. It just seems clunky, but works perfectly fine. I mainly piece on my Juki or vintage Singers from time to time and have no desire to switch back. Good luck finding the Pfaff you desire.

  2. I have a five-year-old Viking, intro embroidery machine and I like it just fine. I tend to go in spurts: mostly piecing, mostly bags, mostly embroidery. Lately I’ve noticed that the needle down feature isn’t working very well, which can be in issue with machine quilting. I’ll mention it next time I bring it in for servicing. I have my grandmother’s Featherweight, but it isn’t making stitches at all and I haven’t taken the time to play with it yet. Maybe after the guild show in April.

  3. You made me feel better today that I just don’t like my Bernina.. ..I like sewing on my cheap Janome because it just sews—even slinky without stretching the fabric…it just sews with no hassle…

  4. The last time I bought a machine (close to 20 years ago) I spend several days going to different dealers trying as many brands as possible. I ended up with an Elna that has been a wonderful machine. I was having problems at first because I mostly piece quilts and my seams were not always as straight as I like. So I got a single hole throat plate and It made all the difference in the world!
    One of the other benefits was that it was about 1/3 of the price of the Bernina with the same features!

  5. This is very interesting reading. I am trying to get back into quilting after about a decade away. I sat down to sew and could not figure out why my freshly tuned and fluffed Bernina was not making the blocks quite right. I do have a ‘Patchwork” foot, but after measuring it, I realized it isn’t quite right. I really need to follow the line on the machine that is a few inches from the needle. I made a lot of quilts before and I have no idea how I didn’t realize this problem. I’ve started looking for a lighter machine to tote around after a back injury. I suspect it may not be a Bernina. Thanks for helping me realize I’m not crazy. Or at least not about this subject.

  6. I have two Bernina machines and the foot that you talked about: I move my needle over to the right two spaces and get a perfect 1/4″ seam every time with that foot. When I notice the clunking, I open the head (the area where the light is located) and oil the vertical rod that controls the needle (don’t know the correct name of it). Bernina’s manuals used to discourage owners from oiling, but metal on metal parts work smoother when oiled, right?

    The hesitation you mentioned does happen occasionally and can be frustrating.

    If you want to part with your Bernina, I’ll definitely give you a $1 for it! ;o)

  7. I have a Juki that I love for piecing. It is heavy but I do take it to some sewing get togethers I also have a featherweight that my mother-in-law uses to sew on and I will sometimes take it to classes. I also bought a used Bernina a couple of years ago just because. Not real crazy about it, but I find it works well for the young girl I am teaching to sew as it does not stitch very fast.

  8. i purchased a bernina several years ago and was less than impressed. granted, i purchased a low end machine, but i expected more. this was my first new machine purchase in oh, about 25 years, so i was expecting this new machine to do what my old machine did and then some. it did not. i will say this, i probably would have been disappointed in any new machine in my price range because it just seems that they aren’t made as well as the old work horses. now, my idea of a “new” machine would be an old singer 301! keeping my eyes open for a good deal on one.

  9. The Juki TL98Q is essentially the same as your Pfaff, as is the Brother 1500. I have both of those machines. I’ve gotten them both used, the Juki was $300, the Brother was $200. My daughter also has a Brother 1500, we bought hers “used” but it was brand new, for $275. I think they were all resonable prices for us being voracious quilters.

  10. Yes, I’m/was a PFAFF girl but now I also like Janome! The PFAFF that I formerly owned could easily match your description of your Bernina & I got rid of it for a newer one that doesn’t embroider but has problems also. But the PFAFF that my daughter & I like the best & both sew on the most is my old metal head 1222E that is 35 yrs old! We both have the small take to class Janome’s & like those, also! They seem to be little work horses!

  11. I have a fairly basic Pfaff – had it for 15 years and given it very little maintenence. I oil ut & clean it, get it tuned up every 4 -5 wars. It works well & no problems. It’s been a workhorse! I’d definitely get another Pfaff!

  12. I don’t like Bernia’s either…. When I bought my (I REALLY LOVE IT TOO) Pfaff, I tried all the machines… The Pfaff is still my go to machine, LOVE it. But I also own 6 maybe it’s 7 Featherweights…. I kinda got out of control with those if anyone want’s to buy one….. But the reason I didn’t buy a Bernia is the NOISE! They were loud! Hated it

  13. I have a grand quilter but my problem is that the top thread keeps breaking. Thought I would look around for new machine but after your post I will try again the grand quilter with new needles and thread. Thank you.

  14. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion but, I have two berninas and I absolutely LOVE THEM both!! The biggest problem with any of the newer machines, no matter the brand, is the price! So a $1 machine from goodwill is perfect!

  15. I have a Bernina 440QE and have loved it. For a short time I had a Viking and anything would have been better than that. Yes, I have used a Pfaff, but it didn’t win my heart. My Bernina hand I have a good working relationship. I do clean it often and have it serviced annually. So glad we have a wonderful list of choices so everyone can find the right machine for them.

  16. I have an OLD 830 Record Bernina and I love it. My 1st Bernina was a 730 and I wish I still had it. It is heavy for hauling to classes, etc. but it sews like a champ and does not want to stop—-but then, it’s not computerized either. Which I think all of the problems come from. The other machine that belongs to my heart is a Singer 301 slant needle, and of course my 201 Featherweight. (thank you Bonnie Hunter for turning me on to them)
    So my question to all of you with the complaints about your machines—why aren’t you using a plain and simple machine to do “patchwork” on? All you need for making a quilt top is a machine that does a simple straight stitch. You DON’T need a computer for that

  17. Just like with cars, there are “lemon” machines. I have loved my Berninas over the years but all require a good yearly maintenance and repairman if needed. Also loved my old Nechi. My friend loves her Baby Lock. I do like some things on the computerized machines but too many bells and whistles aren’t for me. Hope you can find what you want.

  18. I agree that it’s good we are so lucky to have such wonderful options when it comes to sewing. We can all find a brand/type that fits us well. I recently purchased a Bernina 160 from eBay because I’m a Bernina fan and I wanted a “travel” machine. Your machine is currently selling on eBay for about $500. If you do find another machine you love and this one is just collecting dust, you may want to think about selling it. Just because you don’t love it, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Plus, then you’d have that much towards a new machine, or fabric, or thread… whatever! :)

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